You could consider me a standard-issue feminist. In the pursuit of my happiness, I’ve been educated, worked as a licensed professional, and run a business. However, parenting my own children as a Stay-At-Home-Mom was the most important seven years of my life, bar none. It was also the most challenging job I’ve ever held. What it taught me is that great wisdom can come from the mouths of babes. It taught me that humility was the most important quality to being a good parent.
Back then, I had this reward system with my kids: if they behaved very well during bedtime routines, I read them three stories before tucking them in for the night. This was a favorite part of our day, thus highly motivational for all involved. When they misbehaved, they lost one story at a time; it was like a “three strike” system.
One night a decade ago, during the regular bath-time routine for my four year old daughter and two year old son, I was pretty frustrated. All by myself, I was trying to get them both bathed, combed, lotion-ed, brushed and pajama-ed, but my daughter was cold, so she kept making a dive away from me to cover up with the towel.
After a long day of difficulties, she squirmed away from me one too many times, and I lost it. In full, terrifying mom-fury, I barked very loudly to “STAND UP! ONE STORY GONE!”
She snaps to attention immediately, with this look of shock on her face. This might have been followed by crying, apologizing and begging to get her story back. She hates to be out of my favor, and I didn’t “lose it” very often.
But not this time. She was perfectly calm, and after a heavy pause, she asks in a sage voice,”Mommy, it is hard to have little children, isn’t it?”
I was taken aback, but still red-hot angry, “You have no idea, babe,” I fire back sarcastically with a sneering dismissal. That is when I knew I’d crossed the terrible line. Now I had truly upset her and I could feel the wound rending.
I snap out of it, pry my head out of my own ass, and with all the nurturing I can muster, I explain that having children is the best thing in the world, but I get very frustrated when she isn’t helping me. We talked about how our family needs to work together so that we can enjoy nice things like our story time. I try to explain that like most folks, when I get angry I don’t always make the best choices, but I’m trying to improve. I apologized for being hurtful with my anger.
She absorbs all this and then adds, “It is hard for children to know what to do, Mommy. I just don’t know what the right thing is until you tell me, sometimes.” She said it in the clearest, most reasonable tone I’ve ever heard from anyone, regardless of their age.
“Well, sweetheart, we’ll help each other learn. Okay?”
“Okay,” she agrees with a precious hug, and off we go to read her remaining two stories.
What a diplomat! What a surprise! I was put in my place, and rightly so. Parenting is the hardest and most rewarding job in the world, especially when your kids get it right, even when you don’t. We are all in this together.
These are precious memories for me. I hope they bless you in some way.